Hobart Rowen's Jan. 31 article {Business} on the World Bank and the debt crisis does not accurately portray the World Bank's position. It states that the bank believes that the debt crisis is purely one of liquidity, that it opposes debt relief and that it is content to "spray" money among Latin debtors. This is not so.

We view the debt crisis as a serious, complex and deeply entrenched constraint to development. But the severity and nature of the problem vary from country to country. General prescriptions must be tailored to specific situations. What might be appropriate in, say, Zambia may not be needed in Mexico. Moreover, the cooperation of many actors is required to solve the crisis -- that of the developing countries, commercial banks, governments in industrialized countries and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank. Our success in facilitating solutions to the debt problem also depends on the extent to which the bank's shareholders expand its equity and give it access to their capital markets.

Since the debt problem emerged in full force in 1982, we have been working with our members on strategies tailored to their specific needs. Typically, these call for the reform of each country's economic policies in order to promote a more efficient use of scarce resources and the resumption of growth; for new capital inflows, on concessional terms where needed; and for negotiated, voluntary reductions in the stock of debt -- particularly in the poorest African countries.

Concurrently, the bank has provided financing for vital imports, for high priority investments and for social projects to ease the pain of adjustment. In fact, the World Bank is the largest single source of "new" money in countries as diverse as Brazil, Nigeria and Morocco -- as is the bank's affiliate, the International Development Association, in most of the poor countries of Africa.

Our financial assistance and advice have contributed to the design and implementation of far-reaching reforms. A good example of this is in Mexico, where a World Bank-supported program is being implemented to eliminate trade barriers, increase imports and stimulate the growth and efficiency of the domestic economy.

Partly because of these efforts, a number of countries may have reached the point where forced lending by commercial banks may give way to a more voluntary relationship with financial institutions. This is not "muddling through," as Mr. Rowen suggests; nor is it spraying money at the problem. It is the responsible, patient, country-focused approach to development, which has been the hallmark of the bank and which the situation warrants.

One final point. In some countries the stock of debt is high, and both creditors and debtors have concluded that some form of debt reduction is in their mutual interests. A variety of devices has been created to reduce debt. They include debt-equity swaps and, most recently, the proposal whereby Mexico is seeking to convert part of its debt, at a discount, into bonds with the backing of U.S. Treasury securities. Other market-linked mechanisms will likely be developed, particularly for countries committed to reform of the type we back.

Contrary to what Mr. Rowen states, the World Bank welcomes these initiatives and has helped facilitate them. These are beneficial actions and can help tackle the debt crisis and get Third World countries back on the road to sustained and equitable growth.

FRANCISCO AGUIRRE-SACASA Director, External Affairs Department The World Bank Washington